Atmosphere: Colorfully bright Mexican hideaway.
Price Range: Entrees $5.75 to $8.50.
Credit Cards: Major cards accepted.
Hours: Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Special Facilities: No physical barriers to wheelchairs, but tables are close and small and the restaurant is extremely narrow, booster seats available.
Near the Biograph movie theater in Georgetown, where the storefronts are postage-stamp size and the facades gaily colored, we found Enriqueta's, a Mexican restaurant that flaunts its bias against Tex-Mex food. "Mexico is a country of more than tacos and enchiladas," a sign in the window proclaims.
Inside, Enriqueta's is cozy, small and a tad crowded, even when empty. We worried that our two-family party might overwhelm the delicate balance of brightly painted straight-backed chairs, small tables and no extra room to spare. Fortunately, we had called ahead and a table for nine at the rear had been reserved for us.
Enriqueta's menu was filled with gorgeous choices, including mole de fiesta (the Mexican national dish of chicken in a non-sweet chocolate sauce) and filet mignon with a tomato, herb and cream sauce. While we adults dallied over the offerings, our children scanned the menu for the familiar, smiling as they honed in on a section called "comida tipica" (typical meal), where various enchiladas and taco-type dishes appeared.
After bring the adults half a liter of house wine ($3.75) that was reasonably good and some Mexican beers ($1.75 each) that were even better, our waiter, dressed in a delicately laced Mexican skirt, settled into a litany of cuisine explanations.
My husband, who doesn't care for highly priced food, liked the sound of the house special, chilli relienos a la labranza tezoateca, $7.75 (red chilli stuffed with pork, nuts, herbs, spices and topped with a fruit sauce), but was worried that the chilli would be too spicy. The waiter explained that chilli varies in "hotness" and that it was running a degree or two above mild at present.
"Don't worry," he added. "If you don't like it, I'll bring you something else."
Our daughter, 13, debating between the familiar (tacos, $5.75) and the sublime (camarones Acapulco -- shrimp in herb and wine sauce -- $7.75) was encouraged by the waiter to be daring. Neither she nor we were sorry. In an evening of fine, well-spiced dishes, hers was outstanding. The plump, juicy and obviously fresh shrimp were seasoned with a rich herb, spice and wine sauce that was enhanced but not overwhelmed by garlic.
We asked for advice on appetizers and our waiter suggested our family of four share queso fundido, $2.50, (broiled cheese with sausage) and hongros gratinados, $2.50 (the same thing with mushrooms). The dishes were a reminder of how well Mexican chefs use the velvety smoothness of cheese to encase warm and spicy flavors.
Our friends, who had eaten at Enriqueta's before, couldn't be swayed from an appetizer they had tried on a preivous visit: tostada tapatia, $1.75 (crisp tortilla covered with meat, cheese, refried beans, sour cream and chilli sauce). They were not disappointed.
For main courses, three of the boys -- all in their early teens -- polished off quesadillas de queso, $5.75. Their platters looked rather bland -- the quesadillas were a soft tan color and were served with a white iceberg lettuce salad. The quesadillas were superbly prepared, however: outside, crackling-crisp but not greasy: inside, melty, mellow cheese enhanced by onions, chillis and spices.
Our friends's 11-year-old son couldn't be swayed fron tacos, although the waiter warned that they weren't the usual crisp tortilla folded in half. These were rolled in warm, soft tortillas and served with refried beans, rice and guacomole. They went over very well.
So did the chilli rellenos and the rest of the dishes. Enchiladas rancheras, $5.75, was a beautiful concoction of chicken in a tomato, onion and chilli sauce. My order of pescado Veracruz, $6.75, started with a fillet of fish that bore not the slightest sign of having been reheated, overcooked or otherwise abused. It was covered with a good tomato-base sauce that included onions and olives.
Most dishes were accomplished by carrots, which were a grand surprise. They were cooked to a semi-soft and flavored with onions and spices that left delicately warm afterglow.
All during our meal, our waiter replenished the corn chips on our table. One batch arrived so fresh from the kitchen that they still glistened from their quick bath in hot but very light oil. The sauce served with them was tears-in-the-eyes hot. Our waiter warned us that it was the hottest item Enriqueta's served.
Although several interesting desserts were on the menu, overindulgence in corn chips forced us to abstain.
Enriqueta's isn't for an inexpensive, quickly Mexican meal. The service and food were elaborate and deserving of the time and money they cost. On the high side for a family outing, the tab for our family of four, which had strayed from the many $5.75 offerings and had indulged in appetizers, was $33 for food alone. Wine and beer added another $7.25 to the bill.